November 27, 2007
For Whom The Bridge Tolls
An article in last week's Willamette Week discusses the likelihood that someday we may need to toll the Willamette River bridges to fund their maintenance. This is notoriously a difficult idea to sell to the constituents of Portland, and an increase in vehicle registration fees seems to be much more likely in the near term.
Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler told WW recently he was certain drivers will someday pay a toll to cross Willamette River bridges.
Six days later, in a follow-up interview, Wheeler backtracked. “I probably have to tamp my enthusiasm,” he said. “Just raising the idea of tolls on bridges is near-heresy.”
Not in San Francisco, New York City or even Cascade Locks, where drivers have paid tolls for decades. But here in Portland—a city that hasn’t paid a bridge toll since 1895—free rides across the river are seen as a divine right.
How will residents and Multnomah County bridge users be influenced by paying a toll to cross the CRC when it is completed (in whatever form)? Will it be easier or more difficult to sell new tolls to the public once we get used to the idea of paying tolls?
Continue reading For Whom The Bridge Tolls
November 27, 2007 8:41 AM
I would be in favor of a massive increase to pay for the deteriorating infrastructure here in Oregon. I would propose doubling everything - vehicle registration, gas taxes as well as a hefty increase at the farebox, Amtrak and airport taxes. We are lagging behind all the other states and need to remain competitive.
November 27, 2007 9:04 AM
Would walkers, bicyclists and transit users have to pay a toll?
November 27, 2007 9:06 AM
I think it becomes easier once a toll system is in place. The key is to have several tolled bridges and freeway lanes thoughout the region that all use the same electronic transponder system. Once a certain percentage of drivers in the area start using the transponder and get used to paying tolls just "driving through without thinking about it," it will be easier to add existing infrastructure to the network. Especially if the tolls are set pretty low, to cover "maintenance only," with a surge at peak hours to manage demand.
Elsewhere, I proposed that Tri-Met open its new bridge to private cars on a toll-only basis, using a fairly high toll to keep demand (and traffic) low: a paid shortcut between South Waterfront and the east side. I doubt most people would object to access being tolled when the alternative is "you don't get to drive on it at all."
I could also see merit in tolling one lane on a freeway -- say, widen 217 and pay for the extra lane with tolls.
If Multnomah County rebuilds the Sellwood Bridge, that should be paid for with tolls as well. Another option would be a new Clackamas County bridge between Milwaukie and Lake Oswego. A toll on the (privately owned) Steel Bridge would be a good idea too, although mostly to discourage traffic and make it a "mostly transit" bridge, since almost everyone would just take the nearby Broadway or Burnside Bridges instead.
November 27, 2007 10:30 AM
Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com Says:
I can see the benefit to tolling autos on the bridges. Bikes, peds and transit should cross for free -- but tolling cars could have wide regional benefits:
* Raise money to maintain the bridges
* Make people think again before automatically driving to get downtown -- could they take transit?
* Perhaps induce more demand for an Eastside employment center (sorry, central Eastside industrial sanctuary, your days as a medium-density enclave may be numbered as the economy forces you to become a high-density mixed-use neighborhood)
* Raise money to expand facilities for peds/bikes (a new ped/bike only bridge would be grand!)
And finally, I think Tri-Met and Metro are right to make the new bridge transit/bike/ped only. Keep the cars off, they've already got plenty of alternatives. Tolling the bridges should reduce demand slightly anyways.
As for St. Johns and Sellwood? Yes, toll them too. As DJK mentions, once an electronic transponder is introduced, payment will be easy -- cameras could be used to collect tolls from folks w/o transponders, by reading their license plate #s and sending them a bill in the mail -- or making them pay once they arrive in downtown, and sending them a bigger fine in the mail if they don't pay (ala London).
In fact, this kind of seems to be a back door way to get at congestion charging. Maybe it'd be a good idea to toll the overpasses across I-405 as well. ;-)
November 27, 2007 10:45 AM
Ross Williams Says:
Why toll local bridges to pay for them and not toll local streets? That is a serious question, not rhetorical. The problem of financing motor vehicle facilities is that the gas tax no longer syncs well with actual increases in demand. That is true for all facilities, not just bridges.
Make people think again before automatically driving to get downtown
Only those people who live on the east side of the river. The folks on the west side wouldn't have to pay a toll to get downtown unless you tolled freeway overpasses as well as river bridges.
November 27, 2007 12:19 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
The freeway bridges would remain free, I presume, which might make things worse in that department.
Downtown is not really congested...it needs more congestion, not less. Charging eastsiders to access the central city seems unfair. I think this idea is DOA...a county vehicle registration fee increase dedicated to bridge maintenance makes more sense.
But it seems like our bridges have been undergoing major maintenance quite a bit these days...Hawthorne, Broadway, Burnside with Morrison next, not to mention the state rebuilds of Ross Island and St Johns. I would like to see a breakdown of what has been done, what needs to be done, what kind of resources the county has and how it is being spent before I would agree to more money.
November 27, 2007 2:07 PM
Since 30% of morning traffic is people taking their kids to school, anything that creates a disincentive to make non-commuting trips during rush hour would be good. A few chubby kids might benefit by riding a bike, taking a bus or walking too.
November 27, 2007 3:23 PM
"Since 30% of morning traffic is people taking their kids to school, anything that creates a disincentive to make non-commuting trips during rush hour would be good."
How many of those trips are over the bridges though? I mean, the fact that I have traffic congestion on my street just before school starts from people that are driving their children 6 blocks (at most) to the school near my house is hard on the planet, their cars, and the kids are probably going to become diabetics too, but it isn't slowing down people's commutes or wearing out bridges, so... (And my street is already shot, and is currently growing grass out of the cracks in the pavement... Seriously, it is starting to look better than some of my neighbors lawns.)
November 27, 2007 3:36 PM
no, 30 percent of the traffic not trips...
I live on a major commute route and it seems like more than 50% of the cars going 2 mph for miles have kids in them in the am.
November 27, 2007 9:23 PM
I wish they would get to building some of these things. Instead it's study study study and millions wasted. All the while the raw materials are skyrocketing as we fall behing the rest of the nation. The same theme carries through the CRC, the Newberg Dundee bypass, the bridge in Salem. I wonder if at times in our nation's past they studied projects so much and not built them? They need to quit funding studies and get to digging and bulldozing!
November 28, 2007 3:03 PM
Terry Parker Says:
Only a reality awakening can define the real transport funding problem that exists. Until bias and socialistic political forces stop the discrimination of taxing only one mode of transport, funding for roads and bridges will continue to suffer from a lack of resources. What is needed is a three legged tax stool whereby (1) motorists along with motor freight carriers, (2) transit riders, and (3) bicyclists whom continue to make unrealistic and excessive specialized infrastructure demands all directly contribute to the transport money pot. Tax equity must require a significant surcharge or farebox tax assessed on transit fares, and bicyclists must be directly taxed through the registration and licensing of bicycles. Any tolling such as those proposed to fund the local match for the Columbia Crossing must be charged to all modes of transport. Instead of insistently calling for subsidies from non-users, advocates in the community who continually rant on about enlarging the alternative mode of transport footprint must be willing to themselves pay a considerably higher usage price by opening up their wallets to back up that oratory.
November 28, 2007 3:11 PM
Bob R. Says:
bicyclists must be directly taxed through the registration and licensing of bicycles.
Terry, you've never, ever shown that such a tax could possibly raise substantial funds in proportion to the cost of enforcement/collection and in relationship to the actual revenues required.
On the contrary, most people, growing up, use a bike at some point in their lives -- whether for school or for recreation, and most people utilize motor vehicles at some point in their lives. When you're talking about taxing "only one mode of transport", you're still talking about a heavy overlap between users of all modes.
It is simply more efficient to tax the mode which has the highest demands for infrastructure, consumes the most resources, and represents the highest danger to users of other modes: The automobile.
You forgot, in your proposal, to include pedestrians -- Why aren't you calling for license plates to be firmly affixed to the hindquarters of people who walk? Why aren't you outraged about all the freeloading sidewalk stompers?
- Bob R.
November 28, 2007 4:16 PM
They should have bicycle licenses and vehicle registrations, too. Bicycles should pay a % of their weight of a car - so if a bicycle weigh's 1/1000th of an average car, then the registration fee should be 1/1000th of a car.
November 28, 2007 4:38 PM
So, in Oregon, it's $30 a year to register a car. Greg, you're advocating that we charge bicyclists $0.03 to license a bike for a year?
It's great to have you back on the forum. I've missed your wisdom.
November 28, 2007 5:10 PM
Bob R. Says:
Assuming you get the best contracting setup in the world and pay just the equivalent of minimum wage, and your contractor takes just 5 minutes to set up a new bicycle registration, that 3 cents will cost over 60 cents in labor just to process, or 20X the amount of funds raised. Off to a great start already, plus don't forget the cost of banking, issuing license paperwork, plates, maintaining records/backups, tracking change-of-address, etc. Now we're talking real efficiency. :-)
November 28, 2007 5:13 PM
Bob R. Says:
For a full list of current vehicle fees, see the Oregon DMV fee schedule page.
- Bob R.
November 28, 2007 5:44 PM
Terry Parker Says:
Bob said: "Assuming you get the best contracting setup in the world and pay just the equivalent of minimum wage, and your contractor takes just 5 minutes to set up a new bicycle registration, that 3 cents will cost over 60 cents in labor just to process"
Bob also said: "Terry, you've never, ever shown that such a tax could possibly raise substantial funds in proportion to the cost of enforcement/collection and in relationship to the actual revenues required."
Therefore, if adult bicyclists are charged a fair and equitable annual license and registration fee of $25 to $50 a year, that is $24.40 to $49.40 in revenues per adult bicyclist annually that would go into the transport money pot to help pay for infrastructure.
Bob just answered his own issue.
November 28, 2007 5:49 PM
Chris Smith Says:
You lost me Terry.
Passenger automobile registration is $27/year. How do you get from that to $25-$50 per year being "fair and equitable" for cyclists?
November 28, 2007 6:33 PM
Never mind the 1/1000th factor. I don't think that would work well at all! I think the weight of a bicycle affecting the infrastructure is negligible (maybe 1/1000th is too small, but what does a bike weigh compared to an average automoble?) I think what WOULD work well would be to offer other benefits to registration for bicycle owners like a database to track and offer insurance for if they're stolen, etc. and fund bicycle advocacy from this fund and pay for more paths, etc. I actually really started enjoying bicycling in Portland right before I left and came down to Salem to work for the state. I would have gladly forked over $20-$50 a year to help pay for bike infrastructure improvements! I guess I do miss some things about Portland but Yamhill County isn't too far away, either. Salem has a lot of bike paths but I live out in the country and there are no bike paths AT ALL in and around Dayton and in fact riding on the state highways is extremely dangerous!
November 28, 2007 7:38 PM
"I think what WOULD work well would be to offer other benefits to registration for bicycle owners like a database to track and offer insurance for if they're stolen, etc. and fund bicycle advocacy from this fund and pay for more paths, etc. I actually really started enjoying bicycling in Portland right before I left and came down to Salem to work for the state. I would have gladly forked over $20-$50 a year to help pay for bike infrastructure improvements!"
You are in luck. For $35/year, you can join the BTA, and it funds advocacy, but more importantly through the wonders of lobbying, they can get a 10+ times match for your funds for infrastructure improvements.
November 28, 2007 8:02 PM
Ohh, and I forgot the other part. They send you a sticker, which you can put on the back of your fender where you'd normally put a license plate, and let everyone know that you've paid. And the people at the BTA are always so cheerful when you go to renew, it is so much better than the DMV. And even Terry can get behind this, it is the ultimate in privatization, no government bureaucrats standing around making weird rules, they don't charge late fees for sending in your renewal late, and they don't charge you extra for your other bike, (they figure you only ride one at a time,) or anything like that, no, you just give them some money, and they use it for the greatest good...
November 28, 2007 8:45 PM
Bob R. Says:
I couldn't find authoritative information on average bicycle weight, but apparently high-tech, minimalist racing bikes come in at under 15lbs, and heavy, full-featured touring bikes can go upwards of 35lbs. I'm guessing a typical commuter bike might be 25lbs.
For comparison, here are the curb weights of a few cars: (Specs from Edmunds.com)
Base model Toyota Yaris, 2-door subcompact hatchback: 2293lbs (92X heavier)
Base model Ford Fusion, 4-door mid-size sedan: 3181lbs (127X heavier)
Base model Chevrolet Suburban, standard-size SUV: 5607lbs (224X heavier)
Base model HUMMER H2, full-size SUV: 6614lbs (265X heavier)
The good news: The figure of 1000:1 was an incorrect guess. It's more like 100:1 to 250:1. Which would make the $30 annual car fee, on a weight-based equivalent for bikes, somewhere between 12 to 30 cents.
Tell you what, Terry, I'll make out a check for $30 right now to cover me and ten other bicyclists for over 20 years apiece. Where should I send it?
Why, on a weight-based ratio of 150:1 compared to cars, successfully taxed on say 100,000 individual bicyclists, could raise potentially $20,000 annually for the state.
That should raise enough money to replace, say, the Sellwood Bridge, in about 7,500 years.
(PS... The $30 figure for cars is just a very rough estimate. Registrations cost $54 for 2 years ($27/year) plus an initial plate fee of $5 for two plates. If you live in a DEQ area, there's emissions testing fees on top of that. How do we measure the tailpipe emissions of a bicyclist for comparison?)
- Bob R.
November 28, 2007 10:10 PM
Terry Parker Says:
In response to your question: “Passenger automobile registration is $27/year. How do you get from that to $25-$50 per year being "fair and equitable" for cyclists?”
Based on an average driver that logs 1000 miles a month, 12,000 a year, in a vehicle that gets 20 MPG with a fuel tax of 24 cents per gallon; that adds up to another 144 dollars in motor vehicle fuel taxes paid by motorists. With the motor vehicle registration feed added in an average motorist pays approximately $170 more or less annually in road taxes. Bicyclists can use the majority of roadway infrastructure motorists can use, including freeway shoulders, just not the highway travel lanes. However motorists can not and/or are not allowed to use specialized and often costly bicycle infrastructure. Examples include the Springwater Corridor with the three bridges project in Southeast, the Eastbank Esplanade, the proposed separation of bicycle and ped infrastructure on the South Waterfront and the list goes on and on. Furthermore, in addition to gas tax dollars subsidizing bicycle infrastructure, when costs for projects such as the Columbia Crossing that has a significant amount of bicycle infrastructure proposed, and the reconstruction or replacement of the Sellwood Bridge where alternative mode infrastructure takes up as much or more deck space (half the project costs) than is planned for the 30,000 daily motor vehicle trips that cross the bridge, the $25 to $50 dollar bicycle license and registration fee is very fair and equitable. It is totally reasonable to expect bicyclists to at the very least pay the majority of costs for any and all bicycle infrastructure. A $25 to $50 dollar bicycle license and registration fee would probably not even cover any costs or payments for the roads that motorists and bicyclists can use.
November 28, 2007 10:16 PM
Honda Civic curb weight: ~2500 lbs, with a passenger and vehicle contents let's take ~2700 lbs.
Me on my bike: ~200 lbs
That's way more than 1% of total weight impacting the pavement. By the same note, why does my car cost the same as a vehicle nearly three times the weight, with the maximum load included?
I'm not necessarily a fan of taxing bikes, but doesn't everyone pay some fees more significant than the processing costs for a governmental transaction?
How do we measure the tailpipe emissions of a bicyclist for comparison?
I submit the formula calculated annually $((Burritos * 2) + (Beers * 5) + (Broccoli in oz's * 1.5) + (Beans in Oz's * 42) / 100) + $2.
Seriously, I like a higher gas tax, because it affects everyone. The price is reflected most obviously in miles traveled versus vehicle weight and fuel emissions. Those dependent on deliveries pay, those who drive pay, those who consume pay. It's the most direct usage tax we can create.
Bicyclists will pay their fair share based on price increases of deliveries, car rentals, FlexCar, etc.
November 29, 2007 12:20 AM
Terry Parker Says:
The obsession with vehicle weights does not apply to constructing and maintaining bicycle infrastructure. In addition to all the specialized bike tails, paths, and esplanades; bicycle bridges and specialized bicycle infrastructure on multi-mode bridges that motor vehicles can not use - take for example a two lane street (one each direction) with parking on both sides and a bike lane in each direction. The bike lanes take up 20% of the pavement that motorists occasionally cross over, but can not drive in. Consequently bicyclists should be financially responsible for the 20% of the costs associated with this type of street, and financially responsible for comparable costs on streets that vary in width and percentage dedicated to the bicycle mode of travel. While taxes on bicycling, bicycle license and registration fees to pay for specialized bicycle infrastructure and exclusive bike lanes on roadways can be divvied up any way a person can think of, it still should be all paid for only by the bicyclists that use it, and not assessed to motor vehicles or driving. Therefore the weight of a motor vehicle has nothing to do with paying for specialized bicycle infrastructure. Furthermore, as proposed, a bicycle license and registration fee that pays for bicycle infrastructure is a good deal for bicyclists too. Motorists still pay for the general use portions of roadways and bicyclists still can use those roadways at no charge.
November 29, 2007 12:30 AM
Bob R. Says:
The bike lanes take up 20% of the pavement that motorists occasionally cross over, but can not drive in. Consequently bicyclists should be financially responsible for the 20% of the costs associated with this type of street
You'd have something of an argument if, and only if, bike lanes were being created in new ROW. But in actuality, most bike lanes are crammed into the zone between the travel lanes and where parked cars are accessed by drivers and where doors are opened routinely, blocking the ROW.
Cars rarely ever could traverse such a zone safely without fear of sideswiping other cars' mirrors.
You keep pointing to the bridges on the Springwater Corridor trail as some kind of evidence of massive "theft" of public resources by bicyclists, yet I suspect you keep using those examples because real evidence of instances of expensive, dedicated bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure is hard to come by. (And yes, the Springwater Trail is for peds too, not just bicyclists.)
A single freeway interchange costs more to upgrade than the entire Springwater trail.
- Bob R.
November 29, 2007 12:38 AM
Bob R. Says:
Another note about those Springwater trail bridges: The alternative would be to create a new traffic signal which would completely halt cars on 99E so that bikes and peds from the trail could safely cross. (Or, using the signal further away, a greater number of red lights for cars.)
The bridge, which is heavily utilized, allows cars to continue to move freely on 99E. Even if peds/bikes had somehow been taxed to completely pay for a traffic signal, it is obvious that the bridge is of benefit to motorists, even if they never bike or walk across it. (And just how much money for that infrastructure came from gas taxes in the first place, anyway, which seems to be the basis of your argument?)
Even tonight, as I drove with my partner to Oak Grove on 99E to help my parents with a bit of an emergency, in the cold and the heavy rain, I saw people using the bridge.
Given that a wheelchair user was killed this morning a few miles south on 99E, I don't think it's such a bad idea to provide separate ped/bike infrastructure in a heavily used corridor.
- Bob R.
November 29, 2007 12:49 AM
AL M Says:
"Given that a wheelchair user was killed this morning a few miles south on 99E, I don't think it's such a bad idea to provide separate ped/bike infrastructure in a heavily used corridor."
BTW, the woman killed in that incident was CROSSING THE STREET IN FRONT OF THE BUS!
I've made videos about this problem, never, ever CROSS IN FRONT OF A TRANSIT BUS!
November 29, 2007 12:56 AM
Bob R. Says:
This incident happened very near my parents' house. We went to pick up dinner for my parents this evening and saw the KATU camera crew at the scene of the accident. (We live in the age of live on-the-scene reports about things that happened hours earlier, after everyone else is gone, but oh well...)
You raise an interesting point about the danger of crossing in front of a bus. For those of us who rode school buses routinely in childhood, we were trained to cross well in front of the bus, but also trained that the driver would be looking out for us and signal to us when it was safe to cross. And, of course, school buses have flashing red lights and stop signs, which transit buses do not have.
It may not apply to this incident, but I wonder if that childhood conditioning leads people to make unsafe decisions in adulthood when it comes to the behavior of buses in general.
From what they said on the news, it sounds like the bus driver (who, for those who don't know, was NOT the one who hit the wheelchair user -- it was a hit & run driver) was pretty shaken up about the incident. I hope he/she is OK. Al - if you know this person, please pass on my sympathies -- I know that stretch of road all too well and it is indeed a very dangerous road to cross, even under "ideal" circumstances.
- Bob R.
November 29, 2007 1:02 AM
Al M Says:
Bob, I dont know who the driver was,but if I find out i will pass that along.
Your point about the school bus is valid.
I have never been able to understand why people do it either, it must have something to do with our training as school kids.
People do stupid things all the time however.
November 29, 2007 1:05 AM
Bob R. Says:
One more note about crossing in front of a bus.
Regarding the new transit mall, I have one overriding concern about pedestrian safety: There will be situations where, at some intersections, buses will be stopped at a designated stop in the right lane while light rail trains operate in the center lane. (At many bus stops, the queue will be a bit back from the crosswalk, but not all.)
At these intersections, light rail trains will receive a separate "proceed" signal while the main auto/bus signals are red, and the pedestrian signals crossing the mall will read "don't walk".
However, Portland has a culture of jaywalking, especially downtown. I don't want to start a big debate whether this is desirable or not -- I'm just pointing out that under current circumstances, a great many people quite casually cross the street against the light on a regular basis and do so without substantial harm.
But, with this new arrangement, someone who is used to jaywalking (especially jay-running) who sees a big stopped bus, and a red light, and a stopped car in the far left lane, may dart out quickly to cross the street only to encounter a moving light rail train which has a "proceed" signal.
This is something I've commented about at a past Transit Mall CAC meeting.
Now, in a strictly legal sense, the jaywalking pedestrian would be at fault in such an encounter... but that doesn't make the potential drastic outcome any easier to take for anyone.
I hope that TriMet has worked carefully on designing proper sight-lines at such intersections in the final design stages, or will be adding the "train" icon flashing signs like they have at other non-downtown pedestrian crossings at these key points. Otherwise, they'll have a lot of educating to do after service begins.
- Bob R.
November 29, 2007 5:28 AM
Ross Williams Says:
"The alternative would be to create a new traffic signal which would completely halt cars on 99E"
The reality is most "bike facilities" actually are there to serve motorists and make it more convenient for them. I think it is hard for us to imagine motor vehicles having to actually share the right-of-way with peds and bikes. They would be limited to campground speeds of 5-10 mph.
November 29, 2007 8:12 AM
Al M Says:
"I hope that TriMet has worked carefully on designing proper sight-lines at such intersections in the final design stages, or will be adding the "train" icon flashing signs like they have at other non-downtown pedestrian crossings at these key points."
I sure hope your right about that! There is alot of trepidation regarding that new transit mall design.
I guess we will all have to wait and see!
November 29, 2007 8:46 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Bicyclists should be paid for giving up the motor vehicle lane space most of us with otherwise be using.
Bike lanes are a service to motor vehicles as well...they get us bicyclists out of the motor vehicle lane the use of which is our right.
Some people can't do the math, but as more folks bike, use transit, or work out of their homes instead of driving, the existing lane capacity better serves those who need or want to drive a motor vehicle.
November 29, 2007 9:03 AM
I would gladly pay to ride my bike in Portland if bicycle infrastructure rivaled the massive car-centered infrastructure.
So, tax me. But give me equal treatment.
On another note, some have suggested taxation in proportion to use.
Here's the rub: Bikes can use a road without degrading it in any meaningful way. Automobiles damage the roads they use.
My guess is that a road used exclusively by bikes would require far less maintenance.
November 29, 2007 10:46 AM
However, Portland has a culture of jaywalking, especially downtown
Yeah, no kidding! I got so used to it up there and now I have to restrain myself in Salem where they are very strict about it! I got a warning my first week here for jaywalking. I told the cop I used to do it all the time and it had become a habit. His response "we're not Portland". HAHA